Maria João Pires Handles a Nightmare

It’s like something from a classic anxiety nightmare. You know, like the ones where you dream you arrive at work and suddenly realise you’re in your underwear (which would be fine if you’re one of those people who works in their underwear – I wonder if models and pole dancers have a sort of reversed version of this nightmare?)

Anyway, imagine the scene – there you are, onstage to play a Mozart piano concerto with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. It’s a sell-out audience. Conductor Riccardo Chailly launches the orchestra into it… but they’re not playing the concerto you’ve prepared…

Horrible situation, right? Well, Maria João Pires has had this nightmare – and she was awake for it. In both senses!

“Sprong ze in paniek op” indeed. You don’t need to speak Dutch to get the gist of that!

Thankfully the K466 D minor is something a concert pro would have played at some point, and it mercifully has one of the longest introductions in the repertoire, which allowed Pires enough time to get over the shock, recover the use of her limbs and dig into her memory, gamely promising to “do the best she can”. Apparently the rest of the performance went off beautifully. What a star!

Puts me in mind of the wonderful Concerto Popolare by Franz Reizenstein, where the soloist is determined to play Grieg and the conductor and orchestra are equally determined to play Tchaikovsky. What follows is a riot of “combat” and “ad libbing” as the ensemble pretends to struggle through on scraps from Rachmaninov, Gershwin, Roll Out the Barrel, Pop Goes the Weasel and so forth…

(An audio recording doesn’t really do this justice… If you ever get a chance to see a live performance, go!)

PS This occurrence came to my attention via an article in the Telegraph here. There’s also some stark barking debate in the comment section… But if you find the passionate spoutings of the Wikiexpert brigade more depressing than amusing, I’d give it a miss! (I think my favourite digital batshit observation is that Pires is not a proper musician because she’s just copying someone dead guy’s notes…)

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Posted in c) Musicianship, g) Classically Inclined, i) Reviews

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